NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Schools across Hampton Roads adopted a new state law Tuesday making masks optional for students across Virginia. Some school districts are choosing to extend the policy to staff, while others are continuing to keep masks requirements in place.
Following new CDC guidelines about masks and COVID-19 transmission, school leaders in York County have now made masks optional for students and staff members.
York County school leaders said the division is now considered to be on the “low level” for COVID-19 transmission, making it possible for employees to remove their masks.
James Carroll, chief operations officer for the York County School Division, said, "We had some changes start to happen last Thursday, and on that day the CDC released a new structure for defining community transmission."
Masks are now optional for anyone inside a school building, bus or car in York County. School leaders said the division will continue to follow masking guidance for people who have been exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive for the virus.
"This represents a shift to individual responsibility and what community agencies should do and ensure," said Carroll.
However, in other school districts like Newport News and Virginia Beach, they’re keeping masks required for staff - at least for now.
Newport News school leaders said they are were waiting for more information from the Virginia Department of Labor & Industry about employee mask use before making a decision on whether to let staff ditch their masks at work.
Later Tuesday night, NNPS decided that starting Wednesday, wearing masks will be optional for all non-health service employees who are fully vaccinated and up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines. masks will also be optional for classroom volunteers, in-school tutors and substitutes who are fully vaccinated and up-to-date on their vaccines.
All Health Services employees of NNPS must continue to wear a mask due to possible exposure to COVID-19 during their job responsibilities. Additionally, all employees working in the school district's COVID isolation room must continue to wear masks.
People who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive or who have been exposed to someone with COVID should wear a mask and follow isolation and quarantine guidelines.
NNPS employees who are not fully vaccinated or up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines must continue to wear a mask.
NNPS officials are still encouraging masks to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.